Agnes Barrelet and her daughter at the San Diego Animal Sanctuary and Farm. Courtesy photo

San Diegan Agnes Barrelet said her life changed 10 years ago after seeing the Matt Damon movie, “We Bought a Zoo.” 

“My daughter and I were moved by the story and living conditions of those abandoned animals and the movie showed me I could make a difference in animals’ lives,” Barrelet said. “It took about a year to find the right land to start what became the San Diego Animal Sanctuary and Farm.”

Today, Barrelet is the founder and executive director of the sprawling 20-acre sanctuary and farm that is home to more than 200 domesticated livestock and exotic animals from around the world. 

“I was hoping to offer a grounding, nurturing and real-life place for my daughter to continue to grow into a beautiful human being,” Barrelet said. “I grew up with a lot of animals in my life who taught me a lot. They love without a hidden agenda— it’s pure and true.”

Agnes Barrelet with ostriches at the San Diego Animal Sanctuary and Farm. Courtesy photo

Most recently, Barrelet added a garden to help feed the animals and serve the larger community. 

“It is important to me to provide healthy food to our animals and our community,” Barrelet said. “We love to share our knowledge and show guests or students how we grow our vegetables. This is just the beginning. We have new gardens we are working on so we can provide better food for our animals and our community.”

But the San Diego Animal Sanctuary and Farm serves an even larger purpose. The facility, which is open to the public and field trips, also teaches children about the importance of compassion. 

“I saw how many children need a place to be grounded,” Barrelet said. “How much they need to learn about compassion and how much life is valuable and precious. It was important for me to provide a place for my daughter to escape the Internet world.

“Our guests immerse themselves in the peacefulness of the farm. It helps them recharge and reset, take a step back and reflect. It also provides a safe haven to moms in need of plenitude. It’s a place of love and peace.”

For more information about the San Diego Animal Sanctuary and Farm, go to


San Diego Moms is published on Saturdays. Have a story idea? Email and follow her on Instagram at @hoawritessd.